Tag Archives: women’s issues

Fierce at 50

IMG_9015

Now booking 2017 Haven Writing Retreats!

February 22-26 (full with wait list)
June 7-11
June 21-25
September 6-10
September 20-24
 October 4-8
October 18-22

       To schedule a phone call to learn more about the retreat, go to the Contact Us button here.

I’m taking a break in the Haven Winter Blog series today to reflect on passion, power, age, and to shine a light on a new friend…

Today is the launch of #TheFierce50, a movement dedicated to women 50 and over who are thriving, creating and celebrating where they are in life.  I was selected along with a fierce group of women including Lee WoodruffKathy Kahler and Denise Austin to be among #TheFierce50. We each were paired with a fellow #Fierce50 blogger and given the honor to write about her. I was thrilled to be paired with Katheen Baty, one seriously fierce woman.  After we got off the phone (3 hours!), I wrote this piece.  Click here to read more about The Fierce50 Movement.

I turned fifty last year.  Some people say fifty is the new thirty.  What I know about being fifty, is that I have accumulated enough life experience to know some things, and to learn from them, and to find my true purpose because of them.  Unfortunately, most of the things that have brought me to this confluence of self, had to do with pain.  Is pain really gain?  Is it true that what doesn’t kill you actually makes you stronger?  I would like to think that we’d be stronger from a long walk in the woods, or lunch with a good friend, or floating on our back in the Caribbean.  But while those moments help me to be present, or to process the past and imagine the future…they’re not what has helped me find my way.  It’s the hard stuff that has.  It’s standing in the places where I feel recycled and spat out and spent, and sometimes bashed bloody from hitting walls I somehow haven’t learned don’t have doorways, that have shaken me awake to the basics of self-sustainability.

Is there a cure for this?  Maybe.  Maybe it’s passion.  Maybe it’s knowing what you love and what brings you into true delight and thirst for life…and mining that no matter what’s going on in your life.  For me, that passion has been writing.  It is what holds me together and always has.  I have said many times, “Don’t wait for the rug to get ripped out from underneath you to find your passions.  When I went through re-invention 101, I’m glad that my passions were in a row, even if my ducks weren’t.”  That’s when I wrote my way through a brutal time of my life and my career as a published author took flight, and that’s when I started my Haven Writing Retreats.  At Haven, I teach people to find their voice, their passion, their sustainability through writing, in whatever form they choose—journals, essays, books etc.  But there are other ways.

A woman who knows perhaps more about this than any of us want to, is the remarkable Kathleen Baty who for eight years underwent brutal stalking until she was finally kidnapped at gunpoint.  Did she let it take her down?  No way.  Instead she learned every possible aspect of personal safety to stay alive, worked with Law Enforcement because there were no laws at that time making stalking a crime, and eventually testified at the state and federal level to pass the Anti Stalking Laws.  Talk about turning pain into passion!

But she didn’t stop there.  She started her company, SafetyChick Enterprises, LLC in order to  change the way personal safety and crime prevention was embraced by women. Instead of marketing to fear, the SafetyChick Brand promotes strength, courage and common sense. She wants women to CARE about their safety, not run from it. She wrote two books, “A girls gotta do what a girls gotta do” (Rodale) and “College Safety 101″ (Chronicle Books)  and believes that  “Caring about your personal safety is the GREATEST Gift you can give yourself. IT is NOT about being paranoid.  It’s about being SMART and making SMART personal safety choices.  Personal Safety is Personal.  It’s what makes YOU feel comfortable at the time.  Making the decision to CARE about your personal safety translates into every aspect of your life. It makes you a better mother, friend, coworker, whatever, because you are living with purpose.”

What if, then, as young women and men, we fastened this lesson to our hearts:  Being passionate for our safety first is our bottom line non-negotiable.  Maybe then, pain wouldn’t have to be gain.  And walls would become doors, and pain would become passion and possibility.  And I’d like to think that a little writing along the way helps…

#thefierce50 

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under My Posts

Haven August 2013

portrait

2014 (Now Booking!)

February 26- March 2
June 18-22
September 10-14
September 24-28
October 8-12
October 22-26

When this Haven group left, there were tears, new friendships; there was transformation, fierce self-expression, and most of all community.  We need community, especially in our creative pursuits.  I want you to look at these pictures.  I want you to imagine giving yourself your dreams, despite what your inner critic says, or your friends and family for that matter.  Take a stand for what you believe in.  What you want.  What you want to create!  And if that sparks a desire to come to Haven…DO IT FOR YOURSELF!  In the minute of the spark…is the flame.  Come burn.  yrs. Laura

Here’s what a few of my last retreaters wrote about their Haven experience.

Click here  and here and here.

Yes

It could happen any time, tornado, earthquake, Armageddon. It could happen. Or sunshine, love, salvation.

It could you know. That’s why we wake and look out–no guarantees in this life.

But some bonuses, like morning, like right now, like noon, like evening.

–William Stafford

(with thanks to Lorrie…and all the  Haven brave and beautiful souls.  Thank you for your enormous YES!)  This is for you.

1 Comment

Filed under A Place For Writers To Share, Haven Newsletter, My Posts

Breaking Point: #3

 

I am hosting an end-of-winter series featuring stories from the trenches of pain.  My hope is that in sharing these breaking points, we will feel less alone.  Thank you all for your bravery.  You are helping the world to heal.  To participate and for more info go here.

yrs. Laura

Submitted by: Elin Stebbins Waldal

Two Excerpts from Tornado Warning, A Memoir of Teen Dating Violence and Its Effect on a Woman’s Life

Breaking Point: 

What started it was the picture I drew of myself. I decided to draw a
self-portrait, after I literally stared at my reflection for almost thirty
minutes.

I pulled the mirror off the wall and put it down on the ground and without
really examining myself I just started to draw. It’s when I finished that I was
startled enough to stop, put the paper to the side, and stare.

I hardly recognized myself.

Last fall I checked out one of the cameras from school to try taking
pictures. The one thing I noticed back then was looking through a lens is
really different from just looking. The lens is so small that it forces the one
eye to choose what it sees. Then, with precision, the hand needs to focus the
lens so that the camera actually snaps what you want it to. This is what it was
like for me today looking in the mirror. While I was drawing I was just part of
the reflection but once I put my pencil down and looked at the drawing, then
the captured image all came into focus.

The girl I drew…I don’t know her. She is worn like leather, joyless, spent,
ancient. I forced myself to look at the mirror. The thing of it is…it’s not as
if I am frowning and angry. What is scary is I look vacant, gone, dead.

And that’s when it crept into me…he really can’t kill me…well, he could, but
that’s not what I mean. What I mean is, he actually already has, because he’s
killed my spirit. This is what it means to be alone, really alone…because there
is not a living soul who I can tell.

I hardly tell myself. He must feel me slipping because he has asked me a
million and one times if I really understand he won’t live without me.

Now that I know I am dead, how can I care about his life? After all, he is
the creator of what I see staring vacantly back at me.

I had to stop. I found a small blanket in the hall closet and covered the
mirror. Then I had to leave my room. I was trembling. I walked to the kitchen
and grabbed a snack, then I mechanically went into the living room and sat down
by the huge window that looks down the Mianus River. I drank in the view…all
the deciduous trees are bare naked. And that’s when it hit me with full force.
All those beautiful trees, they shed everything that makes them gorgeous and
they endure the long harsh New England winter and then just when people almost
give up hope, they sprout their tiny little buds. A month or so later they have
leaves; some have flowers too.

I am 19 and I am the tree. I am almost unrecognizable, yet underneath the
twigs and sticks and bark there is a strength. I can feel this strength. I
don’t want to be dead among the living. That tree would no sooner refuse to
sprout then fall over if I pushed it. Maybe….at the core….maybe I am still
here.

So I got up and went back to my room, pulled away the blanket, and sat back
down and again gazed into the mirror. My eyes are green…somewhere in the pool
of black squarely centered in all that green is a path back to me. If I stare
at it long enough maybe just maybe I can see deep inside and find my core, my
strength, my light, my spirit. It’s winter but sure as day will turn to night,
spring will come.

“I am alive….I am alive…I am me and I am alive.”

 

On Healing:

“New questions skip through my bloodstream like a pebble on still water. Do we really “get over” wrongs that have been done to us? How do we know we are healed? The diameter of the rings created by the stone grows wider in my blood lake. I can almost see the ripple beneath my skin. Maybe “healed” isn’t the objective. What if it is “healing”—as in ongoing, like the ocean in a constant ebb and flow? The rolling of the waves begins to settle over me, giving way to a more lucid view of the past that has shaped me. It is as if introspection serves as a ceremonial ablution and through that ritual the choke hold of shame is rinsed clean and makes room for me to see that I am not a victim. I am a survivor but there is more. I need to thrive, share, prevent. I can no longer stay quiet in this world. I have a voice and I feel it reverberate off my internal walls, making its slow climb upward until its melody can be heard all around.”

8 Comments

Filed under Breaking Point, My Posts

I’d love to speak in your neck of the woods!

Sooo…some shameless self-promotion:  if your business, school, social group, club, library etc. is looking for a speaker who is all about empowerment…pick me!  Here’s the scoop:   http://www.apbspeakers.com/speaker/laura-munson

LAURA MUNSON

A writer for over 20 years, Laura Munson is the author of theNew York Times and international best-selling memoir, This Is Not the Story You Think It Is: A Season of Unlikely Happiness. Passionate about “finding the intersection of heart and mind and craft on the page,” Munson shares a story that explores marital crisis and imparts a message of empowerment, the importance of living in the present, and the necessity of claiming responsibility for one’s own happiness – no matter what is going on in life.

It all began when Munson penned an essay, “Those Aren’t Fighting Words, Dear,” for the “Modern Love” column of The New York Times in 2009. Stunned by the firestorm reaction she received, Munson emerged as the face behind an essay that ignited dinner talk, office chat, and book groups around the globe. A short version of a memoir she had written during a rough time in her marriage, the essay touched people with its powerful honesty. And they wanted more. After having written for two decades, having completed 14 novels, and having endured countless rejections, Munson had a book deal within 48 hours.  Her memoir has been published in nine countries.

Munson’s work has appeared in the New York Times ”Modern Love” column, the New York Times Magazine ”Lives” column, O. MagazineWoman’s DayRedbook, Good Housekeeping, More magazine, Shambhala Sun, The Sun, and Big Sky Journal, as well as on HuffingtonPost.com and through many other media outlets. She has been on two national book tours with appearances on Good Morning America, The Early Show, London’s This Morning, Australia’s Sunrise, various NPR stations, and many other television and radio shows, including Dr. Christiane Northrup’s Hay House radio program.

TOPICS

How to Turn Crisis Into Personal Freedom

How to Get What You Want by Getting Out of Your Own Way

The Power of Story in Times of Crisis

Please call 800.225.4575 or contact The American Program Bureau for more information on this speaker’s speech topics.

REQUEST MORE INFO

MY SPEAKER LIST     MAKE A REQUEST
 Laura Munson
Questions about booking?
617.614.1600
RELATED SPEAKERS

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under "Those Aren't Fighting Words, Dear", My book: This Is Not The Story You Think It Is: A Season of Unlikely Happiness, My Posts

More Magazine’s FANTASTIC Reinvention Convention

I’m going to be using adjectives that I try not to over use:  Fantastic, amazing, spectacular, inspiring, fabulous.  I try to save them for when it really counts.  This is one of those times.  Simply put, MORE MAGAZINE’S REINVENTION CONVENTION was one of the most fantastic, amazing, spectacular, inspiring, fabulous events I’ve experienced.  DON’T MISS THE NEXT ONE. Check out the speakers.  All I can say is wow.  Thank you, More, for trusting me to be one of your messengers.  And now a word from the fantastic, amazing, spectacular, inspiring, fabulous Lee Woodruff…  (who also happens to be my friend and one of my book’s biggest champions.)

You gotta love an MC who talks about her dirty underwear!  Literally.  Being on the road as a travelling author, clean underwear is not just a luxury, but a small miracle. Her book PERFECTLY IMPERFECT is a MUST READ! 

 Lee Woodruff at the Reinvention Convention, posted with vodpod

In LA Live-- next to the American Idol finals...tempting...Ever have a day that feels like magic?  Where everybody’s smiling and shaking hands and being kind to each other and thrilled to be exactly where they are?  And there are supermodels and movie stars and TV celebrities and fabulously successful women all around you just being themselves– being normal (whatever that means)– being someone you could sit with in your pj’s and share a pizza and your current crush and maybe have a thumb war…only you’re doing it all grown up in great clothes and an hour of hair and make-up?  Well, I got to have a day like that a few weeks ago and I am still under its spell. Thank you MORE MAGAZINE for putting together such an INSPIRING day. We use the word inspiring a lot in our current society. You could have written the definition. And thank you for inviting me to speak. And for making it barely impossible for me to feel good after applying my own make-up and doing my own hair.

The fabulous Rita Wilson was in the front row-- what an honor! More Magazine’s executive editor, the intuitive and insightful Judy Coyne moderates while Mel Robbins (author, radio celebrity, and life coach), and I cover the topic Getting What You Want by Getting Out of Your Own Way. The fabulous Rita Wilson was in the front row, center. What an honor! (More on Rita in my next blog post.)

Judy Coyne moderates!

I felt like I was living Katie Perry’s lyrics, baby you’re a firework sharing the stage with Mel Robbins. I thought I had a lot of energy! Her book STOP SAYING YOU’RE FINE will change the way you think and relate with the world. 


Remind me not to pose with a super model again.

Christy Turlington Burns is not only beautiful on the outside, but inside too. She has learned the hard way that beauty cannot guard you against health issues, and has taken her birth hemorrhage experience to the screen in her directorial debut: NO WOMAN NO CRY. I was in tears. We think about the babies, but who thinks about the mothers? 

 Sold out book signing! Thanks to all of you who braved that line!

My friend Lee Woodruff behind the scenes.  This is what a Green Room looks like, by the way. They’re never green.
 
For more information on this spectacular convention: 
Stacey Gualandi captures the spirit of the day in her wonderful article for The Woman’s Eye
Here’s a link to our radio interview. Look under News, Radio. It’s the last link.

3 Comments

Filed under My Posts

The Day After Valentine’s Day

I’ve really enjoyed this back and forth with Tom Matlack of the Good Men Project.  I hope you will pass along his positive energy and the way that he champions men and holds them to their best selves.  Here’s is the last in our series.  Hope you enjoy.  yrs. Laura

In the last of a five-part series on love and relationships, Tom Matlack and author Laura Munson debate the question: Do men and women mean the same thing when they say ‘I love you’?

MUNSON: I have to believe that the notion and experience of love are not gender-specific, nor are they culture-specific. I wrote a book about what happened when my husband told me he didn’t love me anymore and wasn’t sure he ever did. I didn’t believe him and chose to give him room to work through and heal from what I believed was a crisis of self brought on by sudden career failure. And he did heal—and we’re still together. I am deeply grateful for that. Some marriages are meant to end. I didn’t feel that ours was—and it turned out that he didn’t either.

I have heard from people around the world, married and unmarried, men and women, gay and straight, responding with gratitude for my book’s message, which is one of personal responsibility in crisis—one of non-reaction and a commitment to finding the freedom of the moment, no matter what’s going on in your life and no matter the outcome of the ordeal. In an interview with a reporter from Tel Aviv, I asked, “I wonder how Israelis will respond to this message.” She paused and said, “I don’t care where you’re from or what religion you are or what social group, the words ‘I don’t love you’ are universally ones we fear and dread.”

I have found that to be true, so I believe that the reverse of those words is just as universal. We long for the words “I love you,” whether we are women or men. We long for the fulfillment and intimacy of relationships. But that “I love you,” in order to be authentic, has to start with the person who is expressing that emotion. That “I love you” has to begin within. If you don’t love yourself, however are you to love me?

♦◊♦

MATLACK: I’m with you on the ideal of love being universal, across gender lines. But the way we get to that ideal is different, requiring that we overcome gender-specific obstacles. I have no idea if it is genetic or learned, but little girls and little boys grow up with very different conceptions of what romantic love is all about. I grant that there are as many different variations on the theme as there are human beings, but in general, women see love as a thing at the center of their existence and men see it as something to be conquered, dealt with, and at worst lied about. Your husband’s story, like my own, points to the difficulty guys have just being honest with others and ourselves when it comes to love.

When we’re young, a guy saying he loves a woman might just mean he wants to sleep with her. My sense, though I only have secondhand reports on this, is that young women generally perceive that, for guys, sex is an expression of love—rather than the other way around.

Guys eventually warm to the idea that there might be just one woman out there that will meet all their needs—but the word love still scares us. I have heard it too many times to count: guys think that if they fall in love and commit, they are giving up options for other women.

But it isn’t about the sex or about the lack of freedom, it’s about the fear of looking ourselves in the mirror and feeling disconnected to the guy staring back at us. I don’t think guys cheat because they think it’s a good idea to sleep around on their wives and kids. Inability to commit isn’t the cause of infidelity; it’s a product of fear and self-loathing. As you suggest, you can’t hate yourself and love someone else.

Some guys never get there. But by the time we reach 46—which is where both my wife and I are now—we have the emotional maturity to see the true and lasting benefits of love and commitment. Guys eventually catch up with the smarter and more mature gender, to see ourselves worthy and capable of giving (and receiving) love without doubt.

Guys like me know we are lucky to cuddle in bed with the perfect woman—in other words, one who has seen the good, the bad, and the very ugly, and stuck around despite it all. And when we say we are “in love,” it is with an equal conviction to that of our female counterparts.

♦◊♦

MUNSON: I find it so true and so unfortunate that the words I love you are so loaded—manipulation, transference, co-dependence being some of it. I agree that emotional maturity comes with age and long-term relationships. I always tell my teenage daughter that people are not capable of being equal loving partners until they are much older—and to focus on her female friendships. I didn’t make that choice when I was younger, and spent most of my time with longterm boyfriends. While I don’t regret those relationships, I do wish I’d skipped the adolescent drama and focused on nurturing friendships instead. When I said I love you back then, it was very different than the I love you I offer now to my husband of 20 years. That I love you is loaded in a different way. It means Thank you, I respect you, I believe in you, I believe in us.

♦◊♦

Tom Matlack and Laura Munson debate other questions about modern love:

Why do young women and older men get along so well?

Are stay-at-home dads macho?

How important is physical appearance to longterm fidelity?

What’s more important to a good marriage—great sex or fighting fair?

3 Comments

Filed under My book: This Is Not The Story You Think It Is: A Season of Unlikely Happiness, My Posts

The Hefner Effect

In the third of a five-part series on love and relationships, Tom Matlack and author Laura Munson debate the question: Why do young women and older men get along so well?

MUNSON: I was raised by an “old man.” My father was 50 and gray when I was born. He used words like “davenport,” “filling station,” and “ice box.” His mother was born in the 1800s and she lived in a nursing home in her last years, where we visited her every night. My father would pass by the rooms and look in and say, “That man used to be the CEO of Sears and Roebuck. It’s hell to get old.” But I noticed that those old men loved me. In fact, as my father aged, his friends would occupy my dance card, as it were, at a multi-generational gathering. And I obliged. I wasn’t scared of their liver spots, canes, and quivering voices. I knew that it was hell to get old, and I was happy to walk arm-in-arm with them through the door, or to get them a plate of food so they wouldn’t have to get up off the “davenport.”

And let’s be honest—I knew that I was “giving an old guy a thrill.” I’d heard it in those exact words from plenty of them. They thanked me for things boys my age often missed: simple things like my smile, my thin ankles—and they meant it. As an adult, I wonder why that is. Is it that men never outgrow their need to feel important to a woman, and their own wives and contemporary lady friends have long soured on stoking their egos? Maybe so.

But why would a young girl oblige? What’s in it for her? I think it’s because I knew there was no threat of sex. No threat for a jealous episode with a girlfriend. I knew I didn’t have to prove myself. They liked my ankles and my smile and that was enough. It was a win-win. I watched that win-win all the way to my father’s deathbed, where he flirted with the nurses. I forgave him for it and so did they. Maybe it’s one of life’s secret agreements.

♦◊♦

MATLACK: I concede that true love is ageless, and that an outsider can never know what happens behind closed doors in a marriage. I would never comment on the success or failure of any particular couple, but the societal phenomenon of old guys and young women is worth talking about.

I sometimes think that marriage is like a boxing match. When the sparring partners are well matched, it goes on and on, with blood and guts on the canvas and beauty emerging from the violence of the engagement. When older men marry younger women, the partners have given up on the idea of going head-to-head with their peer in age and in power. The male and female roles are exaggerated into some kind of daddy-daughter dynamic that is somehow more comfortable than trying to slug it out with someone your own age.

When they give in to the Woody Allen “the-heart-wants-what-the-heart-wants” gravitational pull, both parties make a concession.

A younger woman embodies vitality and beauty—and the guy’s power, defined in its rawest form, becomes the central aphrodisiac. Everyone knows where they stand.

I can’t help but be saddened when I see this pattern over and over again among my friends and in the newspapers, because at bottom it points to our collective obsession with superficialities. We worship material wealth and youth. And boobs.

Money and power or teenage-model good looks don’t make anyone happy in the long term—contrary to the consistent message of popular culture.

At the extreme, both the old man and the young woman are stooping to a commercial transaction—prostituting themselves. She’s selling youth, beauty, and sex, and he’s buying it. Whether you’re sleeping with a guy for $100 or $100 million, it’s all the same. Both sides of the trade miss out on something more genuine than sex, and the kids miss out on having a dad—since most of these guys will be in retirement homes (or dead) by the time their children make it to college.

But maybe I am just being a prude. New research shows that this whole thing is about the survival of the race. The practice of older men chasing younger women may contribute to human longevity and the survival of the species.

♦◊♦

MUNSON: I find it interesting that when I read the question, I didn’t read the phrase “get along so well” as having to do with sex or marriage. I thought about it in terms of dynamic. I don’t have any friends who have fit into that societal stereotype, wherein the old man marries the young hot girl with the “boobs.” I think of that scenario as a myth some people might give in to, and I’m not that interested in it. I think we would do better as a society to start shifting away from these myths. I don’t even believe in the male “midlife crisis.” But I do believe that it’s sold to men, from the time they’re kids, that the prize is youth in women and wealth in men. And I do believe in the power of that lie. Let’s tell ourselves a different story, shall we?

Matlack:  Natasha Vargas-Cooper writes in her recent Atlantic article “Hard Core”:  “One of the most punishing realities women face when they reach sexual maturity is that their maturity is (at least to many men) unsexy.”

Yes, I think old men asking young women to dance is one thing– it’s cute and harmless– but that isn’t what’s really going on most of the time.  There is a sexual component.  There are countless old guys married to young women, and many more older men masturbating to images of young women on the web.  I don’t pretend to completely understand it, but I viscerally believe it is a sell out to true love and goodness on both sides.

♦◊♦

Read others in this series: “Great Sex or Fighting Fair?“ and “Looks and Longterm Fidelity.”

♦◊♦

Tom Matlack is the founder of the Good Men Project and one amazingly inspiring guy.  Check out what he has created!

♦◊♦

—Photo by Gizmo2469/photobucket

10 Comments

Filed under My Posts

Great List of Books for Married and Divorced Folks and Parents

The kind people over at stylesubstancesoul.com have honored me by choosing This Is Not The Story You Think It Is for their list of helpful books in the fields of marriage and parenthood. It’s in good company, that’s for sure. Check out these inspiring books and this inspiring website here And feel free to leave a comment. yrs. Laura

5 Comments

Filed under "Those Aren't Fighting Words, Dear", Motherhood, My book: This Is Not The Story You Think It Is: A Season of Unlikely Happiness